Bible Lesson 145

CRIMINAL CONVERSION

Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

“It is only in proportion as the Christian manifests the fruit of a genuine conversion that he is entitled to regard himself and be regarded by others as one of the called and elect of God. It is just in proportion as we add to our faith the other Christian graces that we have solid ground on which to rest in the assurance we belong to the family of Christ. It is not those who are governed by self-will, but “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

I agree, that writing a Bible lesson that is titled ‘Criminal Conversion’ seems unusual; however, we must deal with the truth, since it is truth that sets us free, and the truth is that what many, possibly even most of the so called conversions we see in the churches of our day are criminal. In other words they break the law of God by calling a profession of faith that does not come from a radical change which has been wrought by God. I don’t say that to demean the church, but I say it to challenge the church to be what God called it to be; and God called the church to be a light to the world, not to look and act like the corruption around them.

We cannot blame the people who ‘decide’ to join churches but never practice or manifest the conversion that God requires, and produces, in those whom He truly saves. John MacArthur has this to say about it as he points to the complete lack of discipline in the visible church. “The results of ignoring church discipline are catastrophic. Gross public sin is overlooked, ignored, and tolerated.

The fellowship of believers deteriorates to the point where it’s indistinguishable from the unbelieving world. God’s people forfeit the credibility of their testimony. And self-deceived sinners happily remain in the local church, unaware of their need for true repentance and faith.” I ask you, do we extend love and compassion to those who manifest no evidence of Grace in their lives, when we sit idly by and allow them to remain in the darkness of sin? If that is love, please do not love me!

Conversion, means a turning away from sin and a turning to God, as our Creator, Sustainer and Savior. It is not something that a sinner can do, it always requires God’s gift of Grace and Faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). Sinners can and do sometime turn their backs on certain sin, or turn over a new leaf in their life, but they cannot convert their lives until God extends His Grace to them. We are saved by God’s Grace, through Faith in His Son, both gifts from God, and until God does that for us, we are sinners who sin in everything they do.

Only those who have experienced the New Birth (Birth from above), are able to convert; and that enablement comes in the person of the Holy Spirit that indwells those who truly believe (Ephesians 1:13-14). Why do you suppose there are so many criminal conversions in the visible churches of our day? 

It has to be that we have taken a wrong turn in preaching of the truths of the Bible. Preaching is ordained by God; however what we see as preaching in our churches today is all too often no where close to Biblical preaching. God gave us the Bible to be preached in it’s context in God’s way and that is not what we are doing so often today. The Apostle Paul charges every preacher who is called of God to preach to “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires , because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” What are we commanded to preach? The Word (The Bible in it’s fullness). How are we supposed to preach? As God has inspired it, reprove (convince), Rebuke (charge them with their sin), and exhort (encourage them to turn from their sin). Why would God warn us that people would not endure sound doctrine? The answer to that question should be evident to even sinners in our day. God knew that unless people were warned and reproved and rebuked and exhorted to holiness they would enjoy the easy and tolerant little sermonettes that preachers enjoy preaching. Really the term endure in verse 3 of 2nd Timothy chapter four, points to toleration. When you fill the church pews with sinners, you can expect them to control the preacher and the preaching, and sinners are willing to tolerate anything that God will not tolerate (sin).

God did not leave us His Revelation of Himself (The Bible) for us to use to make God acceptable to sinners. He gave us the Bible to change sinners and make them acceptable to God. Preaching, true Biblical preaching, points lost souls to the Cross: It should never teach sinners how to act like saints! However, that is exactly what so many preachers, evangelist and the such seem to be doing in our society. We seem to have realized that it takes God longer to save enough people to fill our pews and support our bloated budgets, so we are leaving God out of salvation. We have seen that it is the only way that we can appear successful and our denominational leaders are pushing to appear successful in the eyes of the world. We have seen enough programs that call for us to add members (church members) and we have complied with those calls.

As a result of that kind of preaching and witness we now have more sinners in our midst than we have saints. We seem to have forgotten that Jesus said in Matthew16: 18, that He would build His church. Apparently Christ (God in the flesh), did not feel the same way that we do today. He was not interested in great numbers?.what He was interested in was the saving of souls before they are included on our church rolls. Remember that Noah, preached 120 years and never had a convert, and God honors him for being faithful. Our problem is that we have to compete with the church down the street for the biggest building, the most criminal conversions, the biggest choir, and the most worldly action.

I beseech you pastors who receive this Bible lesson, to take heed and work on quality rather than quantity of your congregations. Do not believe everyone that walks the aisle in your churches and professes to love Christ, has been reborn and converted. If they have and you don’t offer them membership until they have been proven, by how they live and what they do, it won’t make them lose their salvation, because if God has begun a work in them, He will continue it until Christ comes back (Philippians 1:6). The churches in our societies have begun to think that it takes them and their love and their congregations to save a person. That is so far from the truth that it is ridiculous to consider. The only part in that we as Christians can play, is to preach the truth and nothing but the truth, boldly, and with the fire of God behind it and then back up and God will work where He wills. Remember sinners do not know that they are sinners unless you confront their sin and rebuke it, and exhort them not to harden their hearts.

That is the one and only purpose that the church exists. The church (Ecclesia) , is the place where Saints come together to worship God and learn about God’s revelation of Himself. Sinners have a place, but not anything except to hear the Word of God preached in Spirit and Truth. Some may hear the truth that God converts to Faith and they will be saved, they nor us have not arrived at our destination, we have begun the voyage of faith and we live every day to learn about and serve God, until Christ comes back for His church that is spotless and pure (Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:1-7; Ephesians 5:25-27). Certainly, it is possible for us to misread a person’s life, and extend church membership to them but once it is obvious that they are in sin, God has ordained church discipline. That is something that most churches around our world do not like to think about; however it is something that is needed and it is commanded by the Lord. First, whenever an individual member sees sin in the life of another, they are personally responsible to confront that individual with their Bible open and the love of God in their hearts, to bring the person back on line with God.

If that fails, then two or three witnesses go to the person and rebuke his sin and if the person still fails to repent and turn back to God, then the Church calls them before the church and calls for repentance. The person will either be turned from his sin or the church will excommunicate them and no member of the church will have any contact with them, (Matthew 18:1517). It is important that discipline is always used to restore a wayward brother in Christ, it is never used as punishment. Discipline is for sins that God has already judged, so we must never get critical of something that is not clearly judged by God. Discipline is the way God set up to keep the church pure and each person in the congregation active in spotting sin in the lives of other members, but first in their own lives. Contrary, to the Armenian beliefs Christians are not sinners they are saints, being perfected daily by God as they work out their sanctification in the flesh.

As we think about conversion and what it is involves, we have to remember that in the beginning, God created our great grandparents in innocence, but they turned away from God to sin. Their nature passed down to everyone of us; because all of us came from that single pair. We are born already turned away from God and we must be turned or converted to come back to what God originally planned for His creatures. Now, we have to be clear and understand that Adam did not surprise God when He disobeyed and sinned, God knew from before the foundation of the world, that they would and as hard as it is for us to comprehend, God knew and it is part of his eternal plan to save a people from every tribe, tongue and nation to be a particular people as a gift for His One and Only Son Jesus Christ. That’s right according to the Bible, there will be people saved from every tribe, tongue and nation?..without distinction, but not without exception (Revelation 14:6). Why would God demand the death, burial, and resurrection of the old creature of flesh, and conversion from sinner to a saint, to save a person? The reason is that God hates sin (Proverbs 6:16-19).

That’s the reason that God forced Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. They had disobeyed (sinned) and so they no longer had any connection to God. God did forgive their sin, remember that God had clothed them with animal skins and then drove them out of the Garden. Those skins had to come from animals that God sacrificed to obtain their skins, which reminds us that to cover sin, it requires the shedding of blood, animal blood for them and the precious blood of Christ for us today (Genesis 3:21-24; Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews 9:22). God provided a promised Messiah in Genesis chapter three, when He said to the Serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). That disobedient nature of Adam was passed to every person born of the flesh since that time, and that is the reason that God demands that radical change of heart, mind and flesh, which we call conversion, in our salvation. God demands conversion and God initiates and brings conversion with the complete cooperation of the person who is being saved.

The person being saved cooperates; because God has prepared his mind and heart and flesh in the New Birth, to desire God above all things and to cooperate in obeying all that has been commanded us. In the beginning of Jesus Christ’s ministry, as He called His disciples, two of the followers of Jesus, heard the Apostle John speak of Jesus Christ as He walked nearby, “Behold the Lamb of God”. Jesus being aware of their interest asked of them, “What seek ye?” and they answered in a roundabout way, We want to know more about you, and Jesus said come and see. Just as the bible tells us today, that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, these men (Andrew and Peter), wanted to know more about this man who John called the Lamb of God. When Jesus looked at them and asked, What seek ye, He meant many things. Were they seeking Pardon of sin, are you seeking peace, and rest? Jesus Christ asks every person who is a true seeker of all of that the same questions. Jesus Christ is the answer?when we are burdened down with sin and in bondage to the devil, when we are tired and have a heavy burden, He will give us rest, and most important Jesus Christ is our peace, because He has made peace for us with the Father by paying our sin debt.(See John 1:37-51; Matthew 4:18-20; Matthew 11:28-30).

Conversion is that process by which our minds are transformed (Romans 12:1-2) and no longer see ourselves as the center of the world, instead we see Jesus Christ as our all and in all.

I cannot stress strongly enough nor often enough that God never begins salvation, which consist of the quickening and bring back to life the Spirit which was taken when Adam sinned, the gift of Grace and Faith and the New birth, Justification, sanctification, conversion and glorification, and then fails to bring that full circle in everyone who is ever saved. We have preachers, laymen, churches and family that attempt to ‘save’ people and that never works because salvation belongs to God. Those kinds of profession of faith are seen as ship-wrecks that litter the churches of our day. That starts normally after people present a gospel that does not begin at the beginning, which is in the fact that the first thing that must be confronted is the depravity of man, the fact that man has sinned and is at odds with God, in fact he is under the wrath of God. People must understand first and foremost that their problem is that they do not know the love of God but in fact, are under His condemnation and wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3).

But because of our tolerance and misunderstood compassion and love we insist that what happens is, that we leave the sinner alone and instead change God’s mind about man’s condition. That is so absurd that it boggles my mind. Why would our all knowing and all powerful God send His One and Only Son Jesus Christ to die, to allow people to buy into His sacrifice at almost nothing. A.W. Tozer had this to say about commentators who feel perfectly free to bring out a lot of ‘New’ things that they have formed in their own curious understanding of the Word of God. God never intended for us to add to or subtract from the inerrant Word of God as it is written in the Word of God. What so many people in our time want is not an understanding of the truth, what they want is some kind of baby rattle to entertain them as they continue in sin.

Think about this Adam the first human to be created by God; but he and his wife, decided to really flesh out what the Lord has told them not to do and that was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve apparently went to a Bible study conducted by the devil and he got her to thinking that God had not meant exactly what He had said. Then when Eve got home from the women’s social Bible study, she brought Adam up to date on what she had learned and both of them disobeyed God. You men need to read Chapter Three of Genesis and find out who is going to be held responsible for leading the family. God had told Adam what not to do but Adam obeyed his wife and for that Adam was held responsible for it all. I don’t know about other societies but here in America, the family that God created to occupy His world has been almost destroyed because our men got wimpy and the women began to believe that they were men, and the American family has suffered for it. Now did God go tolerant with Adam and Eve?.the answer to that is no! God drove them out of the paradise that He had made for them and forbade them to return.

We have preached confusing sermons and it was all because we were afraid of hurting some old stiff-necked sinners feelings. Instead of preaching that salvation includes many things that will change if a person is truly saved we had rather preach that all a person has to do is to believe. That is not what God in the flesh, Jesus Christ preached! Jesus said in Luke 13:3, “except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish. True repentance is a work of the flesh that is initiated by the Holy Spirit but it always precedes real belief. God gave us the Bible, and it is inspired and inerrant, ever to it’s style and when God says do this first and then that, He meant it forever. If we look at Mark Chapter One and verse fifteen we find that repentance always precedes faith or belief, notice that verse says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, Repent, and believe in the gospel.” We have done that with so many of the precious words of God that we now have even confused those who are true seekers. The first sermon that Christ preached after His wilderness experience was ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17).

Preachers seem to have lost their nerve and They don’t seem to have any holy steel in their backbones. Many of them would make good politicians. Instead of preaching the old time religion which is true Christianity and talks about the depravity of man and the wrath of God against sin, in fact, instead of preaching we seem to be trying to convince people that are going to hell, that hell doesn’t exist, and that God loves them just like they are. We cannot begin to preach the gospel by assuring people that God loves them and Jesus Christ loves them like they are, and that is a lie off the mudsills of hell and God will hold any preacher who preaches that responsible for his sin. The Bible tells us about who God loves and consequently who Christ loves. The gospel of John tells us in Chapter 14:21-24, that God loves those who know his commandments and keeps them. God tell us in verse 24 of that same chapter, that those who do not keep His words, does not love Him. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit never say anything that we cannot contribute to the others in the Trinity.

We seem to be afraid of the truth of the Word of God and the God of the Word. Why should we preach repentance? Because every human heart is born in rebellion against God, and that rebellious heart can never believe, either about his condition before God or the work of Christ on the Cross, that heart must be broken to pieces and a new heart given prior to believing unto obedience. Repentance is that act when God prepares the heart of man to give up sin, in fact, repentance is a heart felt determination to forsake sin. Isaiah 55:7 speaks to repentance when it says “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

Salvation is about a person coming to grips with his nature of sin and his individual sins that usher forth from that nature. It is about understanding the awful fate that awaits them and acceptance of the provision of God to bring them back to a just state before God. The Apostle John speaks to salvation when he says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1st John 3:1-3).

How often have you heard a preacher tell a congregation that all they have to do to be saved is to ‘receive Christ as their personal Savior?’ That is true in a sense but it can never remain at that because that is only a half truth. We must receive Christ as our Lord and Savior and that is an important difference. Many people in churches have never heard that truth, but that doesn’t change the truth. God tells us in Romans 10:9-10.?”That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Confess in that verse speaks about a personal conviction that Christ is the Lord of all in that person’s life. It does not speak of a profession of faith, because even the devil believes and he trembles. (James 2:19). What Romans 10:9-10 means is that the person who truly believes can say with the Apostle Paul, “I am crucified with Christ, never the less I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.

Until next time,

may God bless and keep you

This is Bro. Bob